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Broadband video poised for mass adoption

But issues pertaining to content rights and payment structures must be resolved first, contends the CEO of Singapore's broadband pioneer 1-Net.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

SINGAPORE--The market is primed to consume broadband video services in a big way, but not before it decides how such applications should be paid for, says a top official from the country's pioneer in broadband deployment.

Mock Pak Lum, CEO of MediaCorp Technologies and 1-Net Singapore, believes broadband video is a compelling application that is currently challenged not by technology, but over problems dealing with rights to content and payment structures. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore's incumbent broadcaster MediaCorp, 1-Net offers managed IT and consulting services, and local and international connectivity via its Internet data centers.

"If you could offer an episode of Desperate Housewives a day after it's aired on TV for download via the Web, I think consumers will want that," Mock said. "But we need to first sort out issues related to digital rights management and billing."

"When [content] service providers are comfortable about putting their content online in order to beat piracy, then that'll drive the market in a big way," he said.

Before its merger with MediaCorp in September 2001, 1-Net was an industry-led consortium established in 1996 to spearhead Singapore's broadband deployment. It built and operated the nation's broadband infrastructure SingaporeONE, and currently still manages the ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) network which supports the delivery of broadband multimedia services.

But market adoption of content and services offered on SingaporeONE in the years following its launch in 1997, was slower than expected. On hindsight, the introduction of the extensive broadband deployment could have been a little premature.

Mock explained: "If you look at the ecosystem [then], we were early in the market at that time. There just wasn't enough competition to drive the access service providers [to push] their [product] offerings."

For example, he said, telco operator StarHub was then just focused on rolling out its infrastructure, while incumbent carrier SingTel was cautious to avoid cannibalizing revenues from its dial-up Internet access service.

StarHub has since become a strong market player with a well-executed "Hubbing" strategy, Mock said, and SingTel is looking to move beyond its voice and Internet business and into the IPTV and mobile market segments.

"Today, consumers have a wide choice [of services] from the market players and broadband has reached a critical mass," he added. "Now, it's more about what [applications] to run on the infrastructure."

Rent a mailbox?
And 1-Net believes that, for enterprises, this extends beyond just video streaming applications. The company last month introduced an integrated managed messaging service, NETmail, for small and midsize businesses running on Microsoft Exchange and Outlook environments.

Encompassing three service packages, the NETmail suite includes e-mail antispam and antivirus security tools, server backup and failover features, and Web-based mail access.

With NETMail, SMBs can choose not to build or operate any messaging infrastructure and have the product suite hosted at 1-Net's data center, explained Gegory Chia, 1-Net's director of commercial (products). They can also opt to own their own mail server and have 1-Net manage the service for them, he added.

Depending on the features and tools the customer needs, NETMail is priced on a monthly fee starting from S$12.90 (US$7.74) per user, Chia said. SMBs can also perform basic administrative tasks via a self-service portal, he said.

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